How to Fix Your Family’s Tech Problems Without Going Crazy

I don’t mind helping out friends, loved ones, and extended family members when some device or service goes wrong, but it can be tricky when they don’t quite understand how to describe the problem—or even the things they’ve done to fix it. Having found myself in this position quite a few times, I’ve come up with a few general troubleshooting techniques that you can use to (hopefully) address most problems your family members bug you about.

Make sure the device is running the most updated version of its software

Whether someone says they’re having a problem with their smartphone, their router, or most other devices, it never hurts to confirm that they’ve actually updated their device’s software to the latest version. That’s easy for smartphones; for PCs, make sure they’ve at least run the system-update tools in Windows or macOS recently. If they’re still using an ancient version of either (such as Windows 7 or macOS Sierra, for example), you might even consider walking them through an upgrade to a more modern OS—a longer-term project, but something worth considering as a larger solution.

You’ll probably need to walk your friends and family members through the firmware update process for trickier devices, like their routers, but it’s worth the time for the additional security updates or features they’ll receive. And if a device has some kind of auto-updating feature, it doesn’t take that long to pull up its manual, find out where that setting is, and have them confirm for you that they have it turned on.

Ditch These Racist Terms From Your Tech Vocabulary

The tech industry has a lot of work to do in the fight for racial justice and equality. But while hiring black employees and other under-represented minorities in the field is crucial, there are subtler issues that need to be addressed, too. That includes reflecting on and changing the racially insensitive terminology that is commonplace throughout the industry, and there’s a growing movement of companies and independent developers that are trying to do just that.

Recently, GitHub announced it will change the term “Master repository” to “Main repository” due to the former term’s references to slavery, and will be abandoning the terms “whitelist” and “blacklist” to remove any racial connotations from their use. The changes will apply to all projects on the platform.

Github isn’t the only company leaving these words behind. Other organizations that have made similar pledges include:

Android Open Source Project (AOSP)
Apple
Curl (programming language)
Drupal
Go (programming language)
Grammarly
Microsoft
OpenZFS
OpenSSL
PHPUnit
PowerShell
Python
The UK Government’s cybersecurity branch
This is just a small selection of organizations that have updated or are in the process of updating their terminology with neutral phrasing sans such overt racial references. Some groups began changing these terms years ago, but the numerous alternatives to terms like “Master” or “Slave” has made the transition slightly messier than expected—“Main and Secondary,” “Primary and Secondary,” “Master and Minion,” etc.

How to secure your open source supply chain

Commentary: Open source has never been more popular, which means it’s time to figure out how to effectively secure the open source you use. Two experts weigh in.

The world is made of software, and upwards of 99% of any software you use–open source or proprietary–includes open source components. Some of those components come with a vendor standing behind them, willing to indemnify you in case something goes wrong. For other components, you might be able to get a subscription through a company like Tidelift to ensure steady maintenance.

But then something like the Heartbleed bug rips a hole open in OpenSSL, and you’re left wondering, “How could I have prevented this?” The short, but hopeful answer is: You can’t. Not really. Not completely. As Chef and System Initiative co-founder Adam Jacob stressed in a recent Open Source in Business interview, the real question is “how quickly can you react to the disruption in your supply chain?” not how to preempt such disruptions.